When Political Shunning Becomes Ecclesiastical Shunning

Conservatives have long complained about a liberal media bias and their point is probably well taken. That’s why I was surprised that a particular story didn’t pop up in my (non-exhaustive) search for articles on last Saturday’s Republican forum. Certainly there were plenty of stories, and one would think that someone somewhere would see the elephant in the room. But, since this was, after all, the GOP, maybe they mistook one elephant for another.

Let’s not talk about who was at the forum. Let’s not talk about Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry or Santorum. Instead, let’s talk about who wasn’t there: John Huntsman and Mitt Romney. If you’ve been following the debates you might be scratching your head over why Huntsman continues to get a microphone, but you would have noticed he’s consistently in attendance. You might also know that Mitt Romney tends to be near the top in polling. Yet they were both absent from a forum in the first primary (actually, caucus) state and it was in mid-November. Normally that would be strange behavior for anyone wanting to be President. How do we explain their absence?

Think of the setting in an evangelical church. Think of evangelicals hosting the event, and the crowd shouting “amen” at key points. There were multimedia Bible verses and Contemporary Christian Music. Every candidate was asked about their personal experience and values in a way that made it clear that giving their evangelical “testimony” was the proper response.

To no longer belabor the obvious, John Hunstman and Mitt Romney are Mormons. Sure, they were probably asked to attend, but how inviting could that invitation be? Clearly it was an alien setting for them and they would have the “wrong” answers to the key religious questions. The upshot of the whole arrangement is that they were shunned from one segment of the Presidential campaign.

But, hold on, this post is not actually about politics and it’s not going to be about whether evangelicals can really accept pluralism. I’ll explain where we’re going with this, but first let’s look at a different kind of shunning:

I tried to visit [a particular church] once… As soon as I got out of the car, a man started to aggressively give me grief about having an Obama sticker on my car (this was back in 2007, before the election). He was so aggressive and mean that I didn’t feel that I would be accepted as a Christian there. I got back into my car and drove home…

Now, this woman wasn’t specifically told to go home. The church doors were open. Like Huntsman and Romney, she could have attended, but she was practically shunned. She was shunned for political reasons in a nominally religious setting and the candidates were shunned for religious reasons in a nominally political setting. Sorta makes you wish we did different things in different places.

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115 Responses to When Political Shunning Becomes Ecclesiastical Shunning

  1. dr p says:

    People are shunned in churches for all sorts of reasons, although somehow none of the gatekeepers ever tell them that their money isn’t welcome either. Just out of interest, suppose the woman in question had had a David Duke or “Turner Diaries” sticker on her car; would you take the same umbrage at her treatment? Just asking.

  2. Paul says:

    That mean man needs to learn a few things. Christians can be dumb and dupes for liberal lies and false promises just like atheists can. The bigger elephant, though, is that some are using 2K to paper over a lack of common sense and obvious political stupidity. Indeed, some 2K Christians purposely voted for Obama just to rub it in the faces of those who think the Bible tells us to vote republican. In fact, I was told to my face by a group of Westminster seminary students that they planned to vote for embryonic stem cell research simply to rub their vote in the face of evangelicals—which no doubt was the more edgy move given that standing across the street from the Christian coffee house, “His Place,” smoking cigars and drinking beers while reading bibles wasn’t making as big a splash as some hoped, even when joined by an unnamed WSCAL prof or two. I want to read a story lambasting those types, or do we have a case of media bias among 2K bloggers? Speaking for myself, I’d at least have fun if I was that kind of moron. I mean, voting to allow people to kill fetuses. How boring. At least hit up the strip club and get a lap dance or two.

  3. dr, I’m clueless on “Turner Diaries” and that might be a good thing. To answer your question, this applies equally left and right.
    Anyway, let’s say I thought an Obama sticker means confusion on the morality of abortion or a Duke sticker means racist attitudes. Still, the church is for sinners, isn’t it? I don’t think you to a TSA-style moral patdown at the door. If there are moral issues to be dealt with, there will be time to address them if the person sticks around. But let’s not pre-emptively excommunicate.

  4. Paul, those Westminster kids do the darnedest things, don’t they? But I’m not in a cloud of seminary gnats, I’m in a cloud of evangelical gnats.

  5. Paul says:


    And maybe the media is in the cloud of those they write on, so why complain about bias if everyone can shoo shoo away charges of bias by pointing out the gnats they’re in a cloud of? In any event, the point was lost on you, too bad. You’re in the internet cloud, and you could easily point to 2K political stupidness, but you don’t. That’s probably due to in-group bias. Moreover, it should dawn on you if it hasn’t already that the ranks of the *democratic* wing of “evangelicals” is swelling, but apparently politically conservative evangelicals have earned your ire. If I weren’t so cynical, I’d refrain from believing that this is simply a way to appear hip to the crowd. Bashing political conservatives is all the rage these days, and if you want to be a modern day Machen you need a Mencken to sing your praises. What better way to earn the respect of religious nones than to dog pile on the conservatives.

    Lastly, let’s not beat all Westminster kids with the stupid stick, some have their heads screwed on straight. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but a disproportional amount of the ones who refrain from unthinkingly drinking the kool-aid have undergraduate degrees in philosophy.

  6. Paul says:

    I mean “2K political *and religious* stupidness.”

  7. dr p says:

    @MM: “The Turner Diaries” is the neo-nazi Bible. The example suggested that we’re just a bunch of right-wing bigots too mean-spirited and divisive to extend the right hand of fellowship to sycophantic followers of a taqiyya-spouting Imam-usurper who views partial birth abortion to be a sacrament. Your point, that the church is for sinners and one shouldn’t preemptively excommunicate, is true enough, but can such people be in full fellowship? One’s politics says a lot about one.

    Let’s switch my example to a rainbow-stickered car, out of which emerges two wedding-banded males (let’s even make them “Log Cabin Republicans” and AC’s for fun) who head for the inside of your church on communion Sunday. You can – and ought to – be polite so that they stay and hear the Gospel proclamation, just as I’m sure that they will – and ought to be – brought up short at the rail, because they are living in open and unrepentant sin and thus can’t be considered to have a credible profession of faith, their protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

    I also don’t want the pat -down at the door, but what about at the rail? Granted that GOP doesn’t stand for God’s Own Party (hizbullah), but can a professing Christian and supporter of an avowed enemy of the Gospel also be considered to be in sin, and ought such a one to expect to be received with open arms? Again, I’m just asking.

  8. Paul, thanks for your MM-analysis but its all GIGO because I’m a conservative. Put that in your calculator and come back with another assessment.

  9. “ought such a one to expect to be received with open arms?”

    dr, it all depends on which level of reception you’re talking about. In terms of just sitting in the pew as a visitor, we are to have open arms to anyone who will peaceably sit through the service. If I’m wrong on this, then doctors are for those who are well and the gospel is for those who are righteous.

  10. dr p says:

    @MM: you’ll get no argument from me.

  11. RubeRad says:

    Let’s switch my example to a rainbow-stickered car, out of which emerges two wedding-banded males … living in open and unrepentant sin

    I’m with you on this, although most churches I think don’t have the stones to actually bar anybody from the rail. Regardless of the fact that most pass the elements instead of coming to a rail, which makes it logistically harder, I just don’t think that there is usually an effective personal greeting/net by the elders. An announcement of policy in the bulletin can too easily be missed, and pastors I think vary widely on their fencing of the table.

    But I’ll see your wedding-banded males, and raise you a visiting, non-wedding-banded heterosexual couple — and maybe some discerning observers might guess that she’s 4-5mo pregnant…

    Or the woman who visits on her own, who is church-hopping because she’s not welcome (or under discipline) at her husband’s church, because she is in an unrepentant adulterous relationship. Of course, she doesn’t introduce herself that way…

    Or the son who comes home from college after four years of never darkening the door of the church his “membership” was transferred to…

  12. Zrim says:

    DP, what is the purpose of absurd examples? Let’s try something more routine: making credo-baptists members of P&W churches. But my guess is that the same fellow who applies the RPW to someone about her politics is the same one who applies liberty to the credo.

  13. Zrim says:

    So, Paul, in other words, because someone uses his own blog to blog the way he wants and not the way Paul Manata would prefer is a real toadie. But that’s such an old tune, don’t you know any others?

  14. dr p says:

    @Zrim: not such an absurd example, given some of the pro-gay party line I’ve heard from covenant youth in our own home school “community.” I’m currently in a church which claims to uphold Westminster but allows baptists to join w/o having their children baptised – a big sore spot for me and mine. Perhaps you’d find this interesting: http://www.confessionallutherans.org/papers/ToddW.htm

  15. RubeRad says:

    You might find this interesting:
    The subsequent posts contain a lot of discussion as well.

  16. dr p says:

    @RubeRad: interesting post; IMNSHO paedobaptism is what separates the truly Reformed from the merely nonremonstrant. The applicability to the current topic is also interesting, as the baptists expect to commune with us but will deny us communion if baptised as infants. They can’t have it both ways.

  17. Pooka says:

    I’d hazard paedobaptism is but a very visible sign of separation. There’s a lot going on under the hood that leads to pb. Things that lead to stuff like the 2k discussion. Which makes some of me wonder anew at the way our nonremonstrant and baptisty Christians run around inviting and shunning and applying theological categories in a not-explicitly-Christian environment. Not saying I’m any wiser, certainly not more restrained, but often it looks like a kid playing with a hot poker while high on Pepsi n Pop-Rocks.

  18. RubeRad says:

    paedobaptism is what separates the truly Reformed from the merely nonremonstrant

    Nice turn of phrase. The first time I reuse it I’ll take the trouble to link back here. The second time I’ll just say “as someone once said.” Thereafter, it’ll be “As I’ve always said…”

  19. Zrim says:

    DP, I feel your sacramental pain.

    But pro-gay party lines in home-school environs? I’ll refrain from an equally blustery comment aimed at homeschoolers who describe public-schooling as handing covenant youth over to Molech. No, I won’t: public schools should be thoroughy secularized and Christian kids ought to be in them. Wow, blowhardiness really is cathartic.

  20. Paul says:

    MM, I know you’re a conservative. So put that in your Reformed pipe and smoke it, then come back when you need another bowl. I was simply giving you the Outhouse welcome. You can’t be a blogger here without getting some ribbing by me. Now you’re one of the gang.

  21. Paul says:

    No; that’s not it at all, but I understand the desire to malign me rather than deal with me. In any event, you don’t seem to see how you work at cross purposes with yourself. That is: So, Zrim, in other words, because someone uses his own comment space to comment the way he wants and not the way Steve Zrimec would prefer is a real toadie. But that’s such an old tune, don’t you know any others?


    I know, I know, unfair. Getting into a battle of wits with an unarmed man. It’s not nice, but it is fun!

  22. dr p says:

    @Zrim: we’re on the outside looking in on the homeschooling community despite my PhD wife & I homeschooling 4 kids, largely because we eschew the concept of panaceas and the incipient Methodism (voodoo?) in just-do-this-&-don’t-do-that-&-out-come-olive-trees-cornerstones-arrows-etc-ad-nauseam; we also know of a couple of kids who got the gate at a local Christian school for making the two-backed beast in the chapel (holy rollers?). “Public schools should be thoroughy secularized and Christian kids ought to be in them” – well, they aren’t, and so they shouldn’t be…for the most part. I challenge you to a blowhardiness duel – choose your orifice (this is, after all, an outhouse).

  23. RubeRad says:

    holy rollers?

    I can spout references all day long. That move maybe the most authentic ever made about Christian education.

  24. dr p says:

    @RubeRad: Twenty years ago, when our first child was still in the planning stages, the discussions were about home school vs Christian school, as public school was just tithing one’s bairns to Molech, as Zrim pointed out above. Neither of us would have guessed at the mindlessness, aversion to excellence, God-smack and covenant jive cum two-facedness, and general nastiness which could give public schoolers a run for their money, so prevalent in those allegedly sanctified circles. Talk about ecclesiastical shunning! Our experiences in NCFCA have been refreshing, but our friends therein all have their horror stories too. I’m a lot slower on the judgement trigger now.

  25. RubeRad says:

    Wow. Your honest assessment of how homeschooling can go wrong earns you kudos here in the ‘house. But if you thought you could escape without another link from me, think again. You certainly don’t (or shouldn’t!) have enough time to read all of this long thread hotly disputing the link between home-education and monasticism though. But that is a direct link to partway down the thread where it gets interesting (unless you want to read about Scottish “traybakes” vs. “no-bakes”)

    (BTW, what’s a NCFCA?)

  26. dr p says:

    @RubeRad: having read the post and a fair sample of the comments (who wastes more time: you posting these, or me reading them?), the whole lot can be accused of positing a false dichotomy. Monasticism has no scriptural warrant, albeit there is a calling to celibacy given to a very few; homeschooling is scripturally warranted, although some nitwits insist on turning their homes and cliques into little Herrnhuts (which has no scriptural warrant).

    We have chosen a via media in pursuing academic excellence with participation in society, but with a gradual case-hardening to the world. What we allow our kids to watch, listen to, and do, appalls the stereotypical homeschoolers as much as the thought of raising hot-house tomatoes with no hardening-off appalls us. We have been equally appalled by the ecclesiastical shunning we have received because of our approach, but justified ih having raised independent thinkers who achieve on their own and who don’t resort to the nasty interpersonal politics of their home-, public-, or Christian-schooled peers.

    I’d like to end by emphasizing that, contra the cop-out monasticism is, homeschooling for us has taken and continues to exact an heavy toll: decreased potential income, an awful lot of work, delayed gratification, living life around various forensic tournaments and activities, etc. There have also been great rewards: leaving critics in the dust vis-a-vis scholarships and standardised test scores, family closeness, and watching kids learn to interact with the world without either becoming part of it or pharisaically judging it by thinking themselves to be God’s yardsticks. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but thinking through the various choices whilst questioning one’s motives is incumbent upon everyone planning or with a family.

  27. dr p says:

    addendum: NCFCA = National Christian Forensic and Communications Association, which is a national speech and debate organisation for homeschoolers, as the National Forensic League is for public schoolers.

  28. RubeRad says:

    Ah, all my local homeschooling friends do STOA tournaments; don’t know if there’s any relation with NCFCA, but but those things are festering hotbeds of EXCELLENCE. I absolutely love to volunteer as a community judge; gives me hope for the next generation.

  29. dr p says:

    @RubeRad: STOA broke away from NCFCA for for reasons which I am unaware of. All sarcasm aside, those are excellent outfits. Listening to all too many covenant kids opine about life, the universe, and everything, my mental image of them trundling off to uni is that of the Tommies going over the top at the Somme and being mowed down like hay; at least the debaters learn to hold their own under pressure. I’ve judged at local and regional levels, and, as with anything else, it’s a mixed bag, but there is plenty of excellence to be seen.

  30. jedpaschall says:

    I’m up late with a sick kid, so I can’t resist Paul,

    So a few college or seminary age guys decide to shake off what they perceive as repression in a sophomoric way and we are supposed to think this indicative of 2k thought at WSCAL or elsewhere? Outliers do not a movement make dude. Besides, given the chance would you opt for a cold beer and a stogie over at RO Sullivan’s (I’d probably opt for a lipper of Copenhagen, but that’s from my construction days), or a soy coconut latte over at His Place (which is no longer His Place BTW)? Their Calvary Chapel-type bookstore was a bit cheeky, but I can’t see how inflammatory this would be since a good deal of His Place patrons also made the trip over to Sullivan’s from time to time anyway. Are seminary profs to imbibe and smoke in the proverbial closet?

    VanDrunen, the 2k patron saint has put together some well thought out work on issues surrounding bioethics, which isn’t something these students have done. Nothing wrong with a little muckraking, but how would this personal exchange between you and a couple of students constitute a story on 2k? Especially when such a vote seems to rest on convictions that run in the face of NL ethics espoused by no less than DVD himself.

  31. jedpaschall says:

    In the interests of a little more ribbing,

    WSCAL isn’t the only seminary with a few odd-balls, it’s not like they are the cool kids that populate the PhD program in Molecular Biology over at UCSD. I used to work on lab remodels down at the Salk institute where many of the PhD’s did their labwork, and I wasn’t sure if I had stepped into a world renown center of scientific inquiry or Mordor given the types that populated the labs built in honor of Jonas. Suffice to say there are knuckleheads at every seminary, good or bad, everywhere. What does that have to do with 2k

    What kind of 2k criticism would make you happy here ? Honestly? In our current 2-party system, if someone doesn’t offer a little self-criticism of his own party then he is drinking the kool-aid. I seriously doubt that MM is writing in order to garner the favor of liberals, as if such an agenda ever gets a conservative anywhere anyway. If conservatives did a better job at being conservatives there would be no story here. But, in the interests of fairness, there is a whole set of nonsense going on in the Left these days too – like Obama’s alarming transformation into a neo-con. 2k is of great value to conservatism and liberalism alike, because it gets us out of the need to Christianize the political discourse (which means something entirely different depending on which end of the spectrum one lands on), and get to the real political issues at hand.

    After all, if we can have bioethical discussions without having to resort to “the bible tells me so”, then can’t we move that concept to other modes of political discourse, without the kind of chicanery that MM writes about here? We are coming up on yet another important election cycle where there are a great deal of political challenges facing the nation, and whatever one’s religious experience is, it would seem to me that a candidates qualifications for leadership and how their political ideals and will are best suited to address the great problems facing the Republic. MM points out something that is broken in American political discourse, something that is the fault of conservative Christians, I can’t see what is wrong with that. We live in a pluralistic nation, and conservatives still wrangle about issues that really have no place in politics, since they really do not affect day-to-day policy. Just look at the Bush presidency, and how well he dealt with the dignity of the unborn in his allowing of stem cell research, or the dignity of the American Citizen’s and his natural rights in the Patriot Act. Or take a look at Obama’s repealing of habeas corpus in assassinating an American accused of terrorism without trial, which wasn’t very bleeding-heart-liberal Christian of him to do. Both Bush and Obama claimed to hold to some form of Christianity, both exercised power in ways that seemed to be at odds with the way that they claimed their faith would be reflected in their policies

    Now why MM was so gaga over Palin and not Ron Paul is still beyond me but my kid is finally sleeping so I am going to hit the hay.

    // ribbing

  32. jedpaschall says:

    *Referring to Bush’s refusal to place an outright ban on stem cell research, including existing embryonic stem cells at the time (Fall 2001)

  33. No Ron Paul gaga here, Jed, although he seems to be the only candidate who has a coherent constitutional philosophy.
    As for Sarah, you just leave her alone.

  34. Zrim says:

    DP, I trust homeschoolers of your stripe have a good sense of humor:

    But did you also know that it’s a sin to homeschool in the Protestant Reformed Church?

  35. Paul says:

    There may be morons in all seminaries, but the morons I was mentioning were explicitly linking their votes to 2K doctrine, and, one wonders, how can some 2Kers, maybe z2kers, fault them? And, I’m all for “a little self-criticisms,” but sheesh, over here it’s been 24/7 on republican Christians since the blog’s inception (though Zrim can probably dig up a post our two that disconfirms a literal reading of my hyperbolic claim). As far as garnering sympathies, color me skeptical and cynical. I bade my beliefs on the actions I see 2Kers engaging in more often than not. I see how they get all giddy when a non-Christian points out they’re right (and the self-reflective person should ponder why naked-square religious-nones would claim they’re right). Maybe I’m wrong; but I can only go on actions. And, MM can write about what he wants, just as I can comment about what I want. I just think I can offer criticism of those I’m closer to ideologically. I can fault the overdone, repetitive, boring, cymbal clanging, pre-packaged group-think posting to get cheers rather than make new points or move the discussion. Indeed, we need a little “self-criticism,” right? 🙂

  36. RubeRad says:

    linking their votes to 2K doctrine

    More linky linky. Maybe it’s not very 2K of me, but I prefer to link my votes to confessional doctrine when I can.

  37. RubeRad says:

    who wastes more time: you posting these, or me reading them

    Well, I’d wager you can read faster than I can write; and my online prolificity is largely illusory; that discussion was over a year ago, but the internets, they stick around, so I get to keep linking back to a steadily-growing repertoire of Things Already Said.

  38. RubeRad says:

    As for Sarah, you just leave her alone.

    This has got to be one of the weirdest things I’ve seen all year. Those crazy Catalonians! “Statuettes of well-known people defecating are a Christmas tradition in Catalonia, dating back to the 18th century. Catalonians hide caganers in Christmas Nativity scenes and invite friends to find them. No public figure is immune to being represented in this way – not even Prince William. The Caganer figurines stand for the equality of all people. Regardless of status or fame, everyone defecates.”

  39. dr p says:

    @Zrim: I’ve seen the video before – pretty decent. The PRC’s can no longer surprise me; on the other hand, try being in a church which has its own academy and remain homeschoolers – or piublic schoolers – or any-other-school-but-theirs-schoolers – and then talk about ecclesiastical shyunning. Been there, done that, got the gate.

  40. jedpaschall says:


    It’s pretty lame to ground the use of murdered fetuses for medical purposes in 2k thinking, as this flies in the face of just about any decent account of NL, which is something we can all agree is a hallmark of 2k thought. I am not sure that there are many in the 2k camp who would go this far, outside a few who simply haven’t weighed the issues well, either with respect to their own faith (which does influence our decisions at the ballot box to a degree), or with respect to the ethical implications of their vote. So we are agreed here. 2k is new in it’s development in Reformed circles, and because of this there are some who will operate under the guise of 2k who frankly will be clearly be outside the pale when judged by a little more history. Same thing happened in the Reformation, it took a while to weed out the radicals from the orthodox.

    So, according to anything published by any 2k scholar, articles, books or otherwise, I am not sure how a few outliers are indicative of a whole movement. The fact is most 2kers of note beyond Stellman lean to the right of the political spectrum, and are rightly critical of the rank stupidity that so often defines the right. A little political house cleaning is well in order, regardless of what those on the left think. The whole dog and pony show that MM writes on is an absolute diversion from the economic and, domestic, and geopolitical issues that are boiling over in American politics. As a conservative libertarian, I would sure like to see some rational political discourse on issues of substance instead of this sort of nonsense that has absolutely no bearing on what any of these candidates would do if elected.

    And, where would we be if you didn’t comment the way you like amigo? So much fun would be lost. But I don’t think we are talking about groupthink in the case of MM’s post here. The criticism is warranted, unless you think that the topic of this particular Republican forum was politically appropriate.

  41. jedpaschall says:


    As for Sarah, you just leave her alone.

    I’ll tell you what, when she leaves politics alone, I’ll leave her alone. At least she has stopped touring the country in that monstrosity of a tour bus, maybe it’s hunting season in Aleskah. In which case I pity the caribou that finds itself on the receiving end of a Palin fired bullet. But I am thankful that the only trigger she has access to is her 30-06 and not the US’s nuclear arsenal.

  42. Zrim says:

    Paul, if you’re looking for a 2ker to fault someone for behaving politically irresponsible then here I am. But if you want to fault 2k instead of the person, not so much. That’s the point of 2k: people have the liberty to behave politically (read: a matter indifferent) as they see fit. I understand that allows people to act in ways that might irritate you (and me), but that’s not a reason to fault 2k. You and I both affirm liberty of conscience to consume substances, which means some flakes will very likely employ that to act poorly. Do you really think the fellow who faults you for “papering over bad behavior with all this liberty jazz” is balanced? But that’s pretty much what you do when the indifferent behavior is politics instead of booze. So I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my fundies who point to stupid human behavior in order to fault liberty: it’s not the doctrine that irritates you, it’s abiding the human sin, so quit wasting your breath on those who affirm the doctrine and start faulting sinners who act like sinners and show poor judgment. That is, if fault finding is so important to you.

  43. Paul says:

    But Zrim (and Jed), the question is if we have any grounds to fault those who act like morons given 2K, at least the kind preached by Zrim, It’s not clear to me that we do. Zrim has said that 2K allows someone to vote to murder someone else, and there’s no moral problem with that. if so, what’s the moral problem for using your 2k to vote democrat just to pee-off your religious right neighbors.

  44. “I’ll tell you what, when she leaves politics alone, I’ll leave her alone.”

    Jed, she’s too valuable for us to lose. Even if we need to create an office to keep her we should do it.
    I’m thinking Smack Talk Czar or something along those lines.

  45. Zrim says:

    Paul, maybe it’s not a question of morality but wisdom. Sort of like blowing smoke in your Baptist neighbor’s face: liberty allows you to smoke but wisdom says don’t be a jackass about it. Are you wanting morality to swallow wisdom?

  46. Paul M. says:

    That’s not really loving your neighbor. Liberty doesn’t allow you to blow smoke. Are you afraid to say things can be both immoral and unwise? Why the robust black/white dichotomies? Life’s more complex and ambiguous than that. 🙂

  47. Paul M. says:

    “. . .blow smoke in the face of your neighbor.”

  48. Zrim says:

    No, I don’t have any probem saying stealing is both unwise and immoral. But now you want to discipline the guy who acts like a jackass. Yeow. But I guess it’s consistent. We’ve been through this before: your paradigm has no reasonable way for wisdom to work itself out without the morality police breathing down its neck. Are you sure you’re Reformed?

  49. Paul M. says:

    Before I answer your question, can you show me where I have ever said I want to discipline a guy simply or merely for acting like a jackass? (I didn’t think so.)

    More to the point, can you state, using my own words, what my “paradigm” is? (I didn’t think so.)

    I know this bristles your black and white categoried mind, but Zrim, there’s such a thing as actions that are *both* jackessed and immoral. For example, a guy who cheats on his wife is a jackass, and he should also be disciplined. What you fail to get is that are debate on this has only and always been over whether some of the things that you place only in the jackass circle might also belong within the immoral circle (you could picture this with a Venn diagram). What it comes down to is that I agree with you about the labeling of jackass but disagree over your mislabeling as amoral. All you can do and have done in response to this is to misinterpret my position and resort to cutesy put-downs. Are you sure you’re thinking?

  50. Zrim says:

    Paul, a man who carries on secretly but also non-sexually with a woman other than his wife is a jackass but not immoral. A man who carries on sexually, whether openly or secretly, is both a jackass and immoral. Does your paradigm know what to do with the former man? If you say he should be publicly disciplined instead of privately exhorted then your socks are way more black and white than mine.

  51. dr p says:

    Gentlemen: private exhortation is an early step in church disciple, so the dispute seems to be on the wise application of discipline vs discipline per se.

  52. Zrim says:

    DP, it’s not really a discussion about the nature of church discipline. It’s about what it means to be human, and for some, like Paul, morality must loom large in every nook and cranny of human experience. And when others, like me, suggest that morality isn’t everything all the time and that sometimes wisdom looms large because different situations call for different measures, others, like Paul, suggest that this means amorality. In other words, it’s all or nothing. But somehow I’m the one with black and white socks.

  53. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, your question is simplistic and odd. First, the situation is entirely too vague and ambiguous to get a simple answer. I could give examples that are immoral and fit into “carrying on secretly but non-sexually” and examples that are not immoral. In order to get an answer, you’d need to be more explicit.

    However, it appears you are hoist by your own petard, unbeknownst to you. You say the first man is a jackass but not immoral. But then why the “exhortation?!” I can only assume you have Matt. 18 in mind. In this case we privately exhort another when they are in *sin*, and hence you undercut your claim that the man is *not* doing something immoral. Indeed, if you *stipulate* that the activity is *not* immoral, whence ariseth the propriety to “privately exhort?!”

    So your own example is confused.

    In any case, I claim that there are some actions which are both immoral and jackassed. It seems you agree. So, the debate is over the specific incidents. We thus agree *in principle* but may disagree over certain *cases*. Therefore, it is entirely inappropriate for you to constantly paint me as you do, for we hold identical positions but differ on whether certain cases fit into those positions. Whether they do or not is an open debate. You want to stifle such debate and beg the question by announcing thunderously from on high that any time we disagree is a time where I am wrong about whether the incident properly belongs in the both/and category. Why, how convenient for you! Whenever there’s a disagreement over a specific case, it must be *I* who improperly located a situation as both jackassed and immoral. Must be nice to have a “heads I win, tails you lose” approach to argumentation. Whatever Zrim’s net doesn’t catch isn’t a fish. LOL.

  54. Paul M. says:

    What is the Outhouse position on lying about your interlocutor in order to score cheap points?

  55. dr p says:

    @Zrim: I’m not sure I understand you. Churches tend to label mere jackassery or even adiaphora as immoral, depending on which edition of the Christian Talmud they’ve canonised. I this that to which you refer? Even a private exhortation, though, is still church discipline, albeit not the basset-eyed we’re-so-grieved lecture.

  56. Zrim says:

    Paul, “exhort” is not exclusively a religious phrase. It can also have a non-religious meaning, which is actually the one I have in mind. An unbeliever can privately exhort another unbeliever for playing with fire with another woman. But this can also be true, I think, of two believers. In either case, the jackass isn’t doing anything immoral but simply stupid, which isn’t a sin. Maybe “advise” works better? (DP, I think this might also help to explain what my point is.)

    Yes, I do agree that there can be actions which are both unwise and immoral. But you’re hyperventilating again. I believe you originally suggested I was employing “robust black/white dichotomies” in response to me saying that something may not be a question of morality but wisdom. And I’m still saying that: a man who exercises bad judgment but does nothing immoral cannot be regarded as immoral but only unwise (perhaps because he is on a path that has a likelihood of ending up immoral, such as in our example). How is that employing “robust black/white dichotomies”? I can only think that you think a man who acts unwise is also being immoral. Maybe you don’t, but if you think a man who is carrying on secretly but non-sexually with another woman is being immoral I think you’re making morality swallow wisdom.

  57. Jed Paschall says:


    I hear what you are saying here and generally I agree. But the distinction that is giving rise to the lovefest between you and Paul, as I understand is the “jackassery” that took place when a few WSCAL students voted in favor of stem-cell research. Correct me if I am wrong here.

    Assuming this is the case, I can see why this falls more into a black and white paradigm. We are talking about a straight up and down vote to legalize the use of aborted fetus’ here. I think that this ranges into a clear moral issue that is nearly impossible to square with the 6th commandment. This differs from voting for a pro-choice candidate because there can very well be different circumstances prompting the vote other than something that places one on shaky ground Scripturally. If these gentlemen voted this way, I would certainly question whether or not it lands within the purview of the general equity 6th commandment, and frankly I am not sure how it could be defended. In which case, they acted not only in a manner consistent with a jackass, but also immorally. This sort of straight up and down vote, which happens often here in CA proposition votes, would be one of the few scenarios where moral questions might factor definitively into how a person votes, possibly making it sinful to vote in a certain manner.

    Any thoughts to the contrary?

  58. Zrim says:

    Jed, what I consider unwise is to cast a vote simply to irritate someone else, which is why I chose the analogy of blowing smoke in a Baptist’s face. That doesn’t seem to me to be a responsible or becoming way to exercise one’s citizenship or liberty, respectively.

    But if you are saying that voting to legalize the use of aborted fetus’ is an immoral act then I simply disagree. I maintain the distinction between acting politically and behaving personally. If one opposes a political measure then he should oppose it politically (e.g. casting a vote to outlaw the use of aborted festus’), not morally or spiritually.

  59. dr p says:

    @Zrim: ” If one opposes a political measure then he should oppose it politically (e.g. casting a vote to outlaw the use of aborted festus’), not morally or spiritually.” Please clarify this for me: I understand voting for the lwesser of evils presented on a ballot, and have no delusions of voting in the eschaton, but I’m not sure I understand the clean break you seem to be postiing between political vs ethical/spiritual behaviour; ie both are human behaviours hence have an ethical component.

  60. Zrim says:

    DP, my suspicion is that there may be something of a divide between those who have more faith in the power of politics and those who are more agnostic. I am agnostic, which also tends to include an inability to see how voting could be a moral act, even if morality intersects with politics.

    But if I vote for our country to go to pre-emptive war against Iraq, is someone really correct in saying that I am perssonally and morally responsible for the taking of innocent Iraqi life during shock and awe? I don’t think so; I think that’s quite a confusion. And I think the same applies here. If Bob votes to legalize the use of aborted fetsus’, is anyone really correct in saying he is personally and morally responsible for the lives taken? I oppose pre-emptive war and the legalization of elective abortion, but I can’t bring myself to say that he who is for it is morally culpable. All I can bring myself to do is oppose him politically.

  61. Jed Paschall says:


    The distinction of political/personal only works to a point, as politics does transect the realities of life at many points. I generally opt to pursue the maximization of political freedom, and stay away from playing the role of sin police, which is why I voted against CA Prop 8. However, when we get into the realm of human life, we are bound spiritually to seek it’s preservation, and ethically as citizens of this world we are also ethically obligated to do no harm. WLC asserts the following:

    Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
    A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

    Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
    A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

    There is no way to divorce the morality from the politics here. I tend to think that most in the 2k camp would agree at least on this point. There aren’t many contemporary situations where we find ourselves morally bound to vote a certain way, but these choices are presented to us from time to time. This isn’t to say that political resistance is the same as spiritual resistance, but that our obligations to the Law do extend to public life.

  62. Jed, your catechism is mine, but its political implementation is not always so obvious. For example, poltico-evangelicals would take morality-based law wherever they can. So they want US Constitutional amendments for their hot button issues, but I prefer those matters to be determined at the state level. Then, some state-level legislation might be so poorly worded as to be objectionable despite its intent.
    In your view, can we make distinctions like this?

  63. Paul M. says:


    Without any specifics, I can’t say whether the guy should be exhorted or advised. What is the nature of the case and the nature of this advising? So the only force your example gains is in virtue of it remaining in the realm of the vague. That’s fine if you don’t want to put yourself on the line, but it’s tendentious to act as if you are making some kind of counter-point based on your totally vague and unhelpful “example.”

    I am not hyperventilating, not in the least. And how is it that you think I’m disagreeing with the claim that if someone doesn’t do something immoral, he shouldn’t be treated as such. And I never said or implied that a man who acts unwise is being immoral.

    I’ll spell it out for you:

    1. We agree that men can act unwise.
    2. We agree that men can act immoral.
    3. We agree that men can act unwise but not immoral.
    4. We agree that men can act both unwise and immoral.
    5. If a man acts both unwise and immoral, he is in the wrong and if he unrepentantly persists and is a Christian, he may be disciplined.

    Do I have 1-5 right?

    So, take (4). We agree (4) obtains. (I wanted you to agree it obtains, that’s why I baited you with the black/white comment.) Now, since we both agree that (4) obtains, then we agree that there exists instances of (4). Thus, we agree that there is a set of actions that is the intersection of sets {1} and {2}. Call the set that is the intersection of {1} and {2}, {4}. That is, {4} = {1} ∩ {2}.

    Now, take some action, A. Suppose we both observe A. Suppose we both agree that A instanced (1). But suppose further that I say that A also instanced (2). Thus I locate A as an element of {4}. Now, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Whether A ∈ {4} is debatable. However, if A ∈ {4} then the man who A’s is in the wrong and, if he’s a Christian, may be disciplined if he repeated A’s an is unrepentant about it (per (5)). Whether or not A ∈ {4} is something we debate and not something you can simply brush me off with platitudes about me wanting to discipline those A’s that are members of {1}. Now, perhaps you can brush me off if all times you say an action is only a member in {1} and not {2}, thus not {4}, are times you are right. But that would be very convenient for you!

    So, since I’m charitable I’ll take you as denying that any time Zrim thinks an action A is only in {1} and not {2}, thus not {4}, are times Zrim is right about the set A belongs to. Call this belief L, since it would be Lucky for you if L were true. I’ll charitably take you as affirming ¬(L). But affirming ¬(L) means that you can’t just waive your hand at me every time I claim some action is worthy of chastisement or possible discipline that you just happen not to agree with. We have to get our hands dirty and actually debate the matter rather than you blowing me off with cutesy remarks about how I want to discipline or chastise or berate people simply for acting unwise, when that constant retort by you would only be justified if (L) were true.

    So, what’s your rejoinder to my very reasonable analysis of the situation? The only thing I can think is that you’ll blow me off for confusing lawgic and gospel. You’ll say you don’t want to have to actually debate your adjudications but simply want to take the lazy way out and blow me off with your hand waves and well-poisoning. I’d understand that response if you were an anti-intellectual, but you keep telling me you’re not. So what gives?

  64. Paul M. says:


    You’re giving Zrim an out. We all agree that the actual real world implementation of these things is complicated. However, Zrim makes the stronger UNIVERSAL claims, that NO POSSIBLE CONCEIVABLE political vote could be considered immoral. Thus we can use POSSIBLE, CONCEIVABLE situations to see if he really means what he says. I already gave him an example of a single vote at a state level. Build in all the qualifiers you want. Zrim STILL says that a Christian could vote to allow the murder to continue.

  65. dr p says:

    @Zrim: I too am an agnostic vis-a-vis the efficacy of politics, but my vote is a statement of my peronal apporbation or disapprobation; ie countenancing or not countenancing an act. Te candidate empowered or halted, or the bill passed or not, will have effects on others. Please give me a stronger argument how my participation or nonparticipation in such a process is morally neutral.

  66. Zrim says:

    And, Jed, your argument is Paul’s, which has yet to persuade me. My point isn’t to “divorce the morality from the politics,” I’ve always conceded that morality and politics intersect. My point is to distinguish political behavior from personal. I don’t see why politics that involve life and death questions get to play by special rules, and I don’t see why affirming/opposing any set of politics politically instead of morally or spiritually is insufficient. My own guess is that abortion politics has simmered and seethed for so long and been allowed to ascend to heights of theological orthodoxy that it is hard to conceive how anyone could be allowed to think otherwise politically.

  67. Zrim says:

    DP, it is not morally neutral. Political decisions will involve some measure of morality. But it’s not all morality all the time. When choicers accuse me of being mysoginistic, a morally charged accusation, for my anti-abortion politics I think they do the same thing as lifers who charge their opponents as murderers. They both think it’s all morality and out pops the moralizing. My point is to concede the moral dimsension, but to pushback on the unrestrained moralizing that everyone seems to do.

  68. Zrim says:

    I sure wish those who are so convinced that Reformed believers should be disciplined for their politics could turn that energy into disicpline for those who neglect the baptism of their children. But then temper it for good measure.

  69. Jed Paschall says:


    For a guy who voted against further defining marriage as being between a man and a woman in CA, I understand your concerns. However, when an issue rises to the level of human life on a straight up and down vote, which is what the stem cell proposition was out here in CA, I think we do have an obligation to the 6th commandment to either abstain from voting on the issue at all, or to vote against. I am not sure how we get around this.

    Pointing out the messiness of the political process doesn’t make every issue obscure. No evangelicals shouldn’t press to force their agenda on the entire nation. However, any sound rendering of NL dictates that we make certain stances on issues affecting human life. That means abortion, when we are given the chance to have a vote that “counts”. This doesn’t mean we vote against all pro-choice candidates, but in up and down votes like CA propositions, it should inform our decisions. The WSCAL students seem to have completely disregarded the ethical implications of their votes, never mind their dubious status as jackasses.

  70. Jed Paschall says:


    Explain how your position squares with the general equity of the 6th commandment here. You know you are going to get some latitude from me, since I draw very few lines on the moral-political continuum. But when we are talking about basic NL issues that transect our own political identity such as rights to life, liberty, or property, I am not sure how you can justify even good this-world citizenship by voting against an issue that bears upon human life, even in principle.

    I know you want to argue for a position of total liberty in the civic sphere here, and intolerance in the church. But, I don’t think you are even touching the ethical implications of the issue at hand here. When we vote to use aborted material, it is tacit political approval of the legality of abortion, which is the ending of a human life. On principal, regardless of whether or not we think that a vote against is going to diminish abortions, can we give conscientious approval, or are all cultural issues relative? I am not saying we need to be decrying the politics of abortion from the pulpit here, or even passing out voter guides at church. But when 2k is used to justify something that is so fundamentally unethical, you are going to hear objections from the constituents who don’t want to be lumped in with those who through ignorance or obstinate haven’t contemplated the implications of their actions.

  71. dr p says:

    @Zrim: I’m seeing differences of opinion here rather than “unrestrained moralizing.” Voting for a pro-choice candidate seems to be a sin forbidden in the Third Commandment (LCQ 113) a la “any wise opposing God’s truth,” as well as the Sixth Commandment as Jed noted.On the other hand, the pro-choicer who believes that the government shouldn’t be financing abortion might be less offensive than the pro-life “education candidate” who wants to dung the public schools with my money. Thus, as you say, things aren’t so black and white as they might seem.

    I’m sure not calling for morality police or inquisitors, but istm our confession has political ramifications – just as it does with failing to baptise our covenant children – so how do we deal with them?

  72. Zrim says:

    Jed, I think almost any political viewpoint could be construed as fundamentally unethical, and my worry would be where the line is drawn. I am not sure what more I can say that I haven’t already. I understand it may not satisfy you or others. But, again, I think this may turn on one’s basic view of politics. I can see where those who think politics and legislation are far reaching would think a certain vote is tantamount to actual, personal behavior. But I simply don’t share that presumption. And so what if the way one votes doesn’t carry the day and the opposition wins? Has that vote really been an immoral act when nothing comes of it in real life? But even if it does, I see so many layers between the hand that casts a vote and one that takes a life that it’s hard for me to see the sort of guilt you guys do. Sorry.

  73. Zrim says:

    DP, if all you see is a difference of opinion then good. That’s all I see as well. But when I get called a mysoginist for my anti-abortion views, or when someone with choice politics gets called a murderer, I really do think more than a difference of political opinion is going on.

  74. mikelmann says:

    Jed, my reluctance to dogmatically denounce another’s view in the political arena is grounded in the complexity of such choices and the resulting difficulty in establishing such things as essentially moral. I bring up constitutional amendments because the politico-evangelicals in my area are calling, e.g., a constitutional definition of marriage an inherently moral and “worldview” position.

    I’m guessing I would be dogmatic about political issues about as regularly as the Westminster standards recommend the church intervening in the business of the magistrate: rarely. Having said that, people can be civilly obtuse and irresponsible as with Paul’s example.

  75. Paul M. says:

    “Jed, I think almost any political viewpoint could be construed as fundamentally unethical, and my worry would be where the line is drawn.”

    Exactly. You sense the trouble such a common sense concession would have for the other things you’ve stated. This is something I’ve been tying to pull out of you for a while now. It is exactly one of the major reasons your view of 2K is seriously flawed. The reason you’re forced to defend what I consider obviously and clearly false positions is because you stated your case too strongly to begin with. I tried to let you know this years ago, and changing your position then could have saved you a lot of headache and trouble defending the obviously false, but for whatever reason you couldn’t concede the point to me. Ah, well, reason always wins out in the end . . . whether you like it or not.

  76. Paul M. says:

    And notice, Zrim still didin’t try to show how his view “squares” with the general equity of the 6th commandment. When it’s Zrim’s ego or the Confession, guess which one loses?

  77. dr p says:

    @Zrim: yes, more than a difference in political opinion is going on in your example: somebody’s being a jackass by resorting to abusive ad hominems rather than reasoned argument. RE Tyrrell, Jr said it best: “ridicule is the compliment lively intelligence pays to jackassery.” This isn’t church – jackasses don’t get to drive the bus, and so we should eschew false dilemmas like political vs moral, poisoning the well, etc, and figure out the ramifications of or confession, the uses of the law, and what to do when we get there.

  78. Zrim says:

    DP, I think the ramifications of the Confession are that believers mayn’t kill. What I have trouble saying is that it means believers have to vote this way or that on pain of discipline.

    Richard Gamble writes in “The War for Righteousness”:

    “…the progressive clergy disseminated from the pulpit and printing press, the unconstrained, metaphorical, abstract thought necessary fro total war. And it was this mentality of total war, as historian Herbert Butterfield later recognized, that made modern warfare so destructive…This attitude, Butterfield wrote, ‘is the clue to the deadliest features of modern warfare–the hatred, the viciousness, the refusal to compromise.’ In every respect, the Great War was waged as a “war for righteousness”…Each nation believes earnestly that it is in the right; that war was forced upon it; that it is battling for righteousness and for civilization itself.”

    To the extent that abortion politics is at the center of culture war in contemporary history, and to the extent that rightists talk about abortion politics the way the progressive clergy talked about geo-political war, this is what I hear when P&R want to construe those who vote one way or another as breaking the sixth. My point has not been to present a false dilemma between the political and the moral. It has been to distinguish between them, because to not do so is exactly what you get from the Protestant liberals of the 20th century. How those who conceive of themselves as conservative Calvinists can look back at the progressive clergy and howl at how they conflated morality and politics during geo-political war but not see how they do the same in the present cultural war is staggering to me. Something about specks in eyes comes to mind, as well as learning little from history. But I guess social gospel is only bad when it’s the other guy’s social gospel; when it’s ours then it’s heaven sent. Praise the Lord and hallelujah.

  79. Paul M. says:

    Zrim, it’s *clearly* obvious that the Confession says more that “Christians mayn’t kill.” At least be honest, dude.

  80. Paul M. says:

    it doesn’t cross Gamble’s mind that one side could be *right* that said position violates the 6th and the other side *wrong*. Or, it could be that *both* are right. He does *nothing* to “distinguish” the political and the moral in this shockingly bad piece of reasoning.

  81. Jed Paschall says:


    What we are talking about here isn’t social gospel. Our response to these issues is a stand alone one, whether or not it passes the vote. It isn’t about transforming society, it is about Reformed Christians attempting to live within their own confessions in among the few cases where the confessions make ethical demands on our actions. If abortion is the undue termination of a human life, then it falls under the strictures of unlawful manslaughter in the 6th commandment. We are bound in our own persons to live in accordance to not only the verbiage of the command, but its general equity, which means not indirectly promoting unlawful manslaughter with our own actions. If abortion isn’t manslaughter, then we do indeed have freedom.

    I realize that there is something to be argued that Reformed Christians cannot direct actions politically or otherwise in such a way that will preclude others from sinning. We aren’t theonomists here, and we aren’t demanding that the world live up to the standards of the Law. This means that even if the stem cell research proposition was sure to pass regardless of how we were to vote, in this instance where the general equity extends to our voting, we are bound to not act in a way that either gives tacit approval to such a measure, or assumes that it is simply a matter of political opinion. We have ethical obligations to uphold the Law as Christians, therefore on a vote that directly bears upon the issue, we must at least grapple with the ethical implications of the proposed legislature, and not assume that we have freedom. This is the problem with the WSCAL students, namely unethical behavior.

    I am not about to demand that the only ethical response to abortion is something akin to a Bayly prescription of political rallies, and Christian activism. We can simply quietly vote against, becaue we are required to.

  82. dr p says:

    @Zrim: pardon me, but you’ve only provided me with a declaration of your principles rather than a reasoned defence. In fact, your argument above is like JW’s arguing against the Trinity because Rome believes it. We could add how clergy on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line inflamed passions for a war which can only be said to have been a judgement on both sides, but what of it? There is a difference in kind between the church involving itself in nationalist sabre-rattlling vs the general equity of the law. As Jed pointed out, right and wrong do play a role here.

  83. Zrim says:

    Jed, I am saying that the problem with the WSCAL students is exercising their political liberty and duties as citizens in such a way as to simply irritate others.

    We are bound in our own persons to live in accordance to not only the verbiage of the command, but its general equity, which means not indirectly promoting unlawful manslaughter with our own actions.

    So does this mean that a believing Congressman who votes to go to pre-emptive war–a doctrine of war that doesn’t pass any just war theory I know–where defenseless lives will be taken in the collateral damage is personally guilty of breaking the sixth? Should GWB be disciplined by his church for his politics the way Nancy Pelosi has by and for hers? I suppose this would all go down a bit easier if I ever heard that sort of reasoning. That may have something to do with the fact that recent geo-political wars haven’t had the time to fester and rise to theological orthodoxy the way certain battles in culture wars have. Nevertheless, I don’t see why either GWB or Pelosi should be reckoned personally guilty for their political outlooks. I only see how they should be politically opposed.

  84. Zrim says:

    Paul, if the choice is between the wisdom of Gamble or the logic of Manata then color me stupid.

  85. Zrim says:

    No, DP, I have given you my principles which conclude in a way you don’t like. But I haven’t disagreed that right and wrong don’t play a role, I’ve only dissented in how they play a role.

  86. dr p says:

    @Zrim: you reiterated my objection in stating”I have given you my principles,” as what I’m asking for is a reasoned defence rather than a mere declaration thereof. Since we both agree that a preemptive war sans credible threat is sinful, should the politician who votes therefor have no culpability? If a person continually behaves in a manner proscribed by one’s church, why shouldn’t said church discipline the errant member (eg Pelosi and Rome)? Shouldn’t Pelosi just leave out of respect to the purity and piece of her church? Again, you leave me opnly with posturing and rhetorical flourish. If you don’t like how others have suggested political behaviour should be dealt with in the church, would you kindly illustrate how it should according to your principles?

  87. Zrim says:

    DP, I can see how the Pelosi case would be consistent with Rome, but I don’t see how that’s consistent with the Reformed doctrine of the spirituality of the church.

    If you don’t like how others have suggested political behaviour should be dealt with in the church, would you kindly illustrate how it should according to your principles?

    I presumed this would be clear. Others seem to want to discipline members for a particular political outlook. I don’t. I would just register my political opposition, or affirmation or indifference depending on the outlook.

  88. Jed Paschall says:


    So does this mean that a believing Congressman who votes to go to pre-emptive war–a doctrine of war that doesn’t pass any just war theory I know–where defenseless lives will be taken in the collateral damage is personally guilty of breaking the sixth? Should GWB be disciplined by his church for his politics the way Nancy Pelosi has by and for hers? I suppose this would all go down a bit easier if I ever heard that sort of reasoning.

    In short, yes, anyone who opted for a preemptive war in Iraq based on bogus intel, should have been brought up on charges of violating the 6th commandment. I’d take it a step further and say that those in Washington who knew better about Iraq, and there were a few, and still opted for the war ought to be tried for war crimes, but that is out of the purview of church polity. If we take the general equity seriously, then it applies to “conservative” crimes just as much as “liberal” ones.

    Rome has every right to sanction Pelosi for her stated views on abortion, since they rightly see it as a violation of the 6th command, and church law. If a politician holds a view which is contrary to his or her ecclesiastical laws, then they are open for punishment as much as someone who violates ecclesiastical law privately. Maybe in some cases, the politicians conscientious dissent (funny to use conscientious for any politician) from church rule makes such censures worthwhile, but the church must uphold its rule of law, which does extend to the public opinions and actions of her members. Rarely do church and state interests transect, but they do from time to time. For example, how would the PCA react if one of her chaplains complied with a US Military directive that they could no longer preach the exclusivity of the gospel? Would that chaplain’s actions warrant action on part of the church courts, since it is a political stance?

    BTW, GWB is far less likely to ever fall under church discipline, since it is an authority that evangelicals unfortunately shun when patriotism is in question. Nothetheless, we cannot totally divorce our membership in the church for the sake of views and actions we might take as members of society.

  89. Zrim says:

    Jed, re the Iraq and Pelosi questions, I think your answers are consistent. I also think mine, which differ from yours, are as well. I think the question of chaplaincy is different, since it involves ordained officers of the church who have sworn to uphold the exclusivity of the gospel. I think of the apostles who were told by their civil authorities in Acts to stop preaching the resurrection, a political order they rightly disobeyed. But members of the church are not charged with having particular political views, at least last I checked my membership vows and the Form of Subscription I signed when I served as an officer. In fact, to my reading those vows were exclusively spiritual in nature.

    But when you say “…we cannot totally divorce our membership in the church for the sake of views and actions we might take as members of society,” I am not sure who you’re talking to. Me? But it’s precisely because of someone else’s church membership that I want to protect his political liberty. If I oppose him spiritually over a political matter then I consider that trampling his liberty.

    And so I am also wondering, since most politics and the law of God intersect at some level, where you think there might be such a thing a political liberty. It’s not in stem cell research or war. So where can someone vote and not worry about running up against his elders?

  90. dr p says:

    @Zrim: “So where can someone vote and not worry about running up against his elders?” – exactly the question I am asking of you; ie what does your declaration of principle look like in practice? Clearly there has to be liberty, but to what degree?

  91. Jed Paschall says:


    “…we cannot totally divorce our membership in the church for the sake of views and actions we might take as members of society,” I am not sure who you’re talking to. Me? But it’s precisely because of someone else’s church membership that I want to protect his political liberty. If I oppose him spiritually over a political matter then I consider that trampling his liberty.

    It was a general statement, not directed to you specifically. Of course we protect liberty, however as members of the church we do not have liberty to violate the law privately or publicly. If a church member violates the Law or the general equity thereof at the ballot box, which I would confine to direct votes, not a candidate with objectionable views, then they are open for investigation if their vote becomes public. Just because an action is a political one doesn’t mean that it isn’t subject to the Law. Otherwise we create a huge mess of overblown liberty, and misappropriated jurisdiction of Law.

  92. dr p says:

    @Jed: restricting the ban to direct voting seems IAW the law cum general equity., particularly as there can be no candidate completely free of offensive views. Your solution seem to preserve liberty and responsibility.

  93. Zrim says:

    DP, all I can tell you thus far is that nobody has offered me a real-world political opinion I would consider so awful that I’d be willing to make an exception to the principles I’ve tried to lay out in this discussion. (I say real-world because Paul-the-logician is given to coming up with absurd examples that never really happen in the real world, you know, where we all actually exist.)

    If a church member violates the Law or the general equity thereof at the ballot box, which I would confine to direct votes, not a candidate with objectionable views, then they are open for investigation if their vote becomes public.

    Jed, your point about direct votes versus candidates makes it sound like you recognize there is a diminishment of personal culpability when it comes to voting for candidates, which seems like the same point I make about voting for proposals (or whatever). DP thinks this solves it, but voting for a candidate versus voting for a proposal just seems like a distinction without much of a difference. So why can person A vote for a choice-y candidate but person B can’t vote for a choice-y proposal?

  94. dr p says:

    @Zrim: candidates are mixed bags when it comes to views, and I think we agree that the Parousia is not subject to popular sovereignty. On the other hand, as with the human life referendum in Mississippi, there is little ambiguity as to its intent, ramifications, and relation to to the Law. To vote for any candidate is to vote for a mixture of good and bad; to vote against recognising the personhood of the unborn is unmitigated and inexcusable evil, and is acting upon an antiscriptural belief. Certainly such behaviour is not merely political, is it?

  95. Zrim says:

    DP, when you say a certain vote is “unmitigated and inexcusable evil” it makes me think of the points I once made here, along with Robert Bork.

    So, even as one who is also opposed to legalized abortion, I’m still not seeing how anything is gained by impugning the moral character of someone who votes very differently from me.

  96. dr p says:

    @Zrim: there’s somebody who merely votes differently to us, and ther there’s somebody who votes in a referendum to deny personhood to the unborn. This not you-say-toMATto-I-say-toMAHto.

  97. Zrim says:

    DP, so how would you like it when choicers say there’s someobody who votes differently from us and then there’s somebody who votes to oppress women?

    See, this is part of what I find so frustrating about this whole national debate. It pits two American virtues, life and liberty, and then demands we decide between being on the right side of righteousness or on the side of the devil, classic fundamentalism. It also frames everything in terms of rights, for one segment of the human population or another, instead of framing it in terms of obligations to others (you know, as in the second greatest commandment). Granted, by framing it in terms of obligations I stack it in favor of anti-abortion. But that’s only because I am right and beyond criticism in my views and anybody who disagrees with me loves Satan. See?

  98. Jed Paschall says:


    voting for a candidate versus voting for a proposal just seems like a distinction without much of a difference. So why can person A vote for a choice-y candidate but person B can’t vote for a choice-y proposal?

    Zrim you are taking something complex, such as a political candidate who have views on the economy, size and scope of government, taxation, social issues, military issues, et. al. and basically flattening them to say that voting for a “pro-choice-y” candidate is the same as voting for a single-issue ballot measure. The measure isn’t “pro-choice-y” – it supports using aborted fetus’ for the prospect of advancing the medical interests of the living. Only by conflating the issue can you say it is a distinction without difference.

    See, this is part of what I find so frustrating about this whole national debate. It pits two American virtues, life and liberty, and then demands we decide between being on the right side of righteousness or on the side of the devil, classic fundamentalism.

    Zrim, if abortion is murder, then it is an evil regardless of it’s status as personal or political. We are talking about a single issue here, not the wars we are fighting, or gay marriage, or entitlements. You won’t impugn another man’s character for exercising his liberty in such a way that is in violation of the Law. Direct democracy models such as CA prop law allow voters to decide on single issues deemed important by the people, so we aren’t debating the complexities of representative democracy or anything of the sort. When given the opportunity to vote for or against one piece of legislation that is convincingly in violation of the 6th command (by any straightforward reading of the Standards), these WSCAL students opted to vote in such a way that violated the command, and to boot under the guise of 2k. Can you see why some of us in the 2k camp don’t wish to be identified with such behavior?

    You and I agree on a lions share of important issues, and I really respect your championing of the spirituality of the church as you have for the past few years that I have interacted with you. However this issue here is somewhat troubling, because I am not sure what warrants your position here. You want ecclesiastical intolerance with respect to communions upholding their confessional identities, which is on any account laudable. However, in the social kingdom you advocate not merely tolerance but something akin to relativism. In this argument I get the sense that you are unwilling to call any political action evil – unwise maybe, maybe enough to make one a jackass, but you seem to resist any sense where the Law bears upon the believer’s public actions and obligations. I am not saying it is our obligation to impose the Law upon a public who refuses such authority, and my own politics will easily bear that out. But I am saying, inasmuch as we are obligated to obey the Law, in good conscience in every aspect of our lives, then there will be times when that might inform political behavior. I am not saying this to diminish the complexity or messiness of politics, and the fact that we often must choose between varying degrees of bad options, but there are some examples, this CA proposition being one of them that
    exemplifies the odd scenario where we are obliged to act in a particular way.

    If you take a stance that all political actions are morally ambiguous, and therefore cannot be called right or wrong, where does such tolerance stop? Honestly, I am curious here. I don’t think this obligates Christians to pick up the poster board and picket every evil in the world, but in the silent and anonymous confines of the ballot box, which is where political decisions are made in this country, I think there is no way to escape the fact that from time to time Christians who choose to vote are obligated to vote in a particular way. I am only pressing you here, because I am not sure how such views square with someone who upholds the relevance of NL in the secular sphere, which would certainly oppose abortion, or the Law in the church, which also opposes abortion or supporting it by her members.

    Anyway, I think I have said all I have time for here, so I’ll leave your response as the last word on the issue (since this is your outhouse anyway). With that said, I look forward to discussing stuff we can actually agree upon amigo.

  99. dr p says:

    @Jed & Zrim: what still baffles me is the privileging of political behaviour over all others. Sexual activity, honesty in transactions with others, rules of the road, etc, are areas we’d all (DV) agree are to be regulated by the law, but somehow voting gets a pass on conformity with the law – or so I’m reading Zrim. I’m seeing voting as a Third Commandment issue; am I missing the mark?

  100. Zrim says:

    If you take a stance that all political actions are morally ambiguous, and therefore cannot be called right or wrong, where does such tolerance stop?

    Jed, that mirrors my question for you. If you take the stance that one political viewpoint is the same as personally breaking the moral law of God, where does such intolerance stop? So, while I do think your question is worthwhile, I also think mine is. And as far as answering your question, I have done so in the direction of DP, namely that I haven’t yet been presented with a real-world example of a political outlook that merits an exception to the rule.

    I am only pressing you here, because I am not sure how such views square with someone who upholds the relevance of NL in the secular sphere, which would certainly oppose abortion, or the Law in the church, which also opposes abortion or supporting it by her members.

    If you want to appeal to the natural law (and I know it’s repetitive, sorry) then I am puzzled as to why there should be no recognition of the fact that opposing a political viewpoint politically is what seems to be part of the creation order and is sufficient for the task. So if you think a political viewpoint is wrong then exercise the political tools ordained to resist it. This is also how NL is relevant in the secular sphere, which is to say not only the moral code or ideals to which we can all appeal but also the functional or practical means. In other words, I just don’t see how church discipline was ordained to leverage the sort of political and legislative products we want. It doesn’t make any sense. So when Christian Jane wants to terminate her pregnancy we employ spiritual means to keep that from happening. When she employs politics to make it legal for others to have one then we employ political means to keep this from happening. There is no divorcing going on here. There is simply a point being made about using the proper tools in the respective spheres.

  101. dr p says:

    @Zrim: does a pastor or session play any role in educating Christian Jane re: the requirements of the Law regarding the duty of magistrates in preserving life cum church members safeguarding it, or do we just vote against Miss I-think-it’s-fine-to-grease-the-skids-of-the-murder-machine-regardless-of-Scripture-&-our-subordinate-standards whilst letting her commune with her errors; ie is it proper to bar one who acts contrary to the requirements of the Sixth Commandment from the altar? If people are silent about their opinions and do as they please in the privacy of a voting booth, nobody is the wiser. If such opining is done publicly, do you really believe a session to be properly fencing the table and caring for a n errant member’s soul to allow such a person to commune? Again, you’re dichotomising between political and all other behaviour; Why?

  102. Zrim says:

    DP, yes the pastor/session plays a role in nurturing Christian Jane in her personal responsibilities with regard to the sixth. If a member has in her body or performs with his/her own two hands an elective abortion then s/he is subject to discipline.

    But if the personal-political distinction doesn’t hold for the individual then I wonder how the spiritual-political distinction can hold for the church. So if the individual should be disciplined for his/her political views on reproductive legislation then maybe the church really does need to inter-meddle on the policy question. But then is that the world setting the church’s agenda? Hello liberalism, good-bye spirituality of the church.

  103. dr p says:

    @Zrim: your point is well taken, but I’m not suggesting that Jane be disciplined for her views so much as for her behaviour; ie having nolo contendre voted contra Deum. Views become behaviour when publicly expressed and/or acted upon, otherwise they remain personal. Do consider, though, that if we allow for “anything goes” vis-a-vis politics with no regard for the Law, it will also be “hello liberalism, good-bye spirituality of the church.” The pharisaical Christian Right and antinomian Christian Left both enthrone man on Moses’ seat; “to the law and to the testimony” remains sage counsel. What this looks like in pratice remains a mystery to me.

  104. Zrim says:

    DP, I’m not working with a definition of liberalism that is synonymous with “no regard for the law.” In fact, it is quite the opposite. And I am not vying for “anything goes vis-a-vis politics.”

    But again, if the parallel to political liberty is substance use then the pushback here seems similar to saying that just because someone has behaved crassly and blown smoke in the face of legalists then some forms of tobacco are absolutely off limits, even when exercised wisely. And so when Jed tells me he can vote in such a way that is contrary to natural law (i.e. homosexuality can enjoy the sanction of marriage, against Prop 8 ) but these WSCAL students can’t vote in such a way that is contrary to natural law (i.e. in favor of stem cell research), that seems like saying he can smoke Camels but they can’t smoke Marlboro because there’s just no way to smoke Marlboro wisely.

  105. dr p says:

    @Zrim: again, point well taken, but you’re attacking inconsistency in an argument vs the basic premise itself; ie the question as to whether or not political behaviour is privileged above other behaviours. I’m saying that all behaviour comes under the aegis of the Law whilst recognising that ecclesiastical prying into people’s personal viewsis off limits. Once views are publicly expressed and/or acted upon, they become behaviours. Any thoughts?

  106. Zrim says:

    DP, I know you won’t like this, but I would say that once political views become personal behaviors is when the trouble starts. So if Jane translates her choice political views into her own elective abortion she’s in trouble.

  107. Zrim says:

    And, DP, if you think political views and behavior are subject to ecclesiastical jurisdiction then what do you make of those of us who agree with the political arrangements of America, to say nothing of the revisions of WCF 23.3 and Belgic 36, that spiritual idolaters should not be civilly punished? If you want those who want to protect one segment of the human population to take the life of another segment at will or whim by virtue of the fact that the former bodily house the latter to come under church discipline then do you want those of us who want to protect Roman Catholics and Mormons from being civilly punished for transgressing the revealed religion of God to be as well? Maybe you do, but I’m saying that the church should only be disciplining those of hers who personally idolize or kill.

  108. dr p says:

    @Zrim: our version of the WCF doesn’t consider those without the church, and I am no reconstructionist salivating over how much heathen wealth I can appropriate under the coming millenial hagiocracy. Rather, I ask ad nauseam how the church can privilege one type of behaviour over another. Since david slew Uriah with the sword of the Amorite, does Planned Parenthood do so to the unborn with the votes of jackass Christians? If so, how do we respond to such jackasses in our midst? You have yet to tell me.

  109. Zrim says:

    DP, one man’s privileging of political behavior is another’s raising the bar to personal behavior.

    But I’d still like to know if my political view that idolaters be legislatively free to practice their idolatry is the same as me personally practicing idolatry.

  110. dr p says:

    @Zrim: to answer your question, no; then again, your position (which is also mine) is IAW or confession. “(O)ne man’s privileging of political behavior is another’s raising the bar to personal behavior” is evasive, as we’re talking about the Law, which I don’t believe privileges political behaviour. Besides, speaking out in favour of abortion is a public behaviour, and you’ll find no way around that.

  111. Zrim says:

    DP, you may think my answer evasive, but I don’t see how yours makes much sense. Idolatry and murder are both prohibited by the law of God. Why do I get off the hook for having a political view that has the upshot of protecting idolatry but somebody else whose political view has the upshot of protecting murder doesn’t?

    P.S. I’m not sure anybody speaks out in favor abortion, anymore than anybody speaks out in favor of oppression …or idolatry.

  112. dr p says:

    @Zrim: you are falsely dichotomising. Spiritual concerns are not the purview of the civil magistrate, whilst protecting citizens from violence is; ie his upholding the civil right to practise a false religion doesn’t mean that he must uphold a “right” to kill the unborn. The magistrate is to protect the lives of citizens under his aegis; he has no warrant to interfere in those citizens’ spiritual lives. This is also IAW our confession. We oppose idolatry through the Great Commission and personal witness; we protect the lives of the unborn with the sword of the magistrate. If a professing Christian publicly opines that idolatry is fine, then said Christian needs to be counseled (ie, first step in church discipline); if a professing Christian publicly opines that elective abortion is fine, said Christian needs to be counseled (ie, first step in church discipline). Please show me the alleged unscripturality and/or inconsistency in handling both behaviours.

  113. dr p says:

    @Zrim: PS, please note the following from WLC: “Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment? A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any…” How does your privileging political behaviour jibe with this?

  114. Zrim says:

    DP, which brings us back square one. But thanks for the ride.

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